U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Thousands of cadets traveled back to the Air Force Academy this week after leaving the school in December for a holiday break. In all, about 4,000 cadets returned here in phases, spread across Jan 5-7, with strict guidelines on what to do if they felt sick or tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Academy’s Pandemic Math Team ran thousands of simulations to help plan the safe return. Academy staff, faculty, members of the athletic department, 10th Air Base Wing Airmen and the 10th Medical Group’s professionals processed returning cadets, completed on-site COVID testing, and stood ready with quarantine and isolation support, all in full partnership with local and state medical officials.
“Our main priority is to bring our cadets back into a safe environment,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Academy’s superintendent. “The entire Academy leadership team is working hard to make sure that we start off 2021 in a positive way, and we’re all excited to have the cadet wing back at USAFA.”
Clark said extensive planning and strict health and safety guidelines established by the county, state and federal medical officials allow the school to continue to educate and train cadets despite the global scope of the disease.
Cadets will enter a restriction of movement period when they return, similar to restrictions they experienced in August before beginning the fall semester, limiting their contact with other cadets, staff and faculty. All cadets will be tested for the coronavirus before their release from this restrictive period. Cadets start the academic semester by attending online classes.
Along with COVID surveillance testing, the Academy’s model for stemming potential coronavirus cases includes quarantine and isolation for cadets who test positive, exhibit symptoms, or who have had contact with others diagnosed with the coronavirus.
“The Air Base Wing played a vital role in the cadet wing’s return,” said Col. Brian Hartless, 10th Air Base Wing commander – the Academy’s host unit. “I am very proud of Team Ten members who have provided world-class medical and mission support throughout this pandemic and especially this week to help support the safe and successful arrival of our cadets.”